President MacDonald: Northwood is a Beacon of Respect for the American Flag

Dr. Kent MacDonald

Northwood University President

Dr. Kent MacDonald
July 3, 2024

President MacDonald: Northwood is a Beacon of Respect for the American Flag

As we commemorate the birth of this great nation, it is a moment of pride to witness the values that Northwood University upholds, particularly in the face of the challenges that plague many college campuses and communities across the country.

Allow me to share an experience that exemplifies the values and remarkable character of our students and members of the Northwood community. Recently, I had the privilege of engaging in a profound conversation with Bruce, a mature student here at Northwood. His wife is a colleague of mine and prior to joining us as a student, Bruce served in Afghanistan and Iraq, a testament to his unwavering dedication to his country and the principles upon which America was founded.

During an enjoyable evening at Northwood’s annual employee barbecue, as we watched the Great Lakes Loons play at Dow Diamond, Bruce and I found ourselves engaged in a conversation that meandered towards the topic of those who disrespect the American flag. Sadly, such acts of disrespect have become all too common in recent times.

With sensitivity, I asked Bruce about his feelings when witnessing such acts of disrespect. After a moment of reflection, he responded, “Have you ever experienced loss in your life?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“No,” he clarified. “Have you ever lost someone really close to you?”

Understanding his point, I shared, “I have. I lost both my parents over the past couple of years.”

Bruce paused, then softly said, “When I see someone disrespecting our flag, my heart aches — it’s like the pain I’ve felt when losing someone close to me.” His response was powerful and caused me to reflect upon the American flag on our beautiful campus. While I have no intention of discussing the happenings at other universities, let me contextualize Bruce’s story within the context of Northwood University.

At Northwood, we proudly display six American flags on our campus, and we stand when the National Anthem is played. Known as America’s Free Enterprise University, we unapologetically embrace the principles of capitalism, the pursuit of profit, and the free enterprise system, and firmly believe these philosophies are the cornerstone of economic and social prosperity for all. At Northwood University, the American flag symbolizes these ideals and is a tangible symbol representing the greatest democratic republic the world has ever seen.

Our unwavering support for the American flag is not a recent development. Several years ago, we launched Northwood University’s Flags, Freedom, and Free Enterprise Program — a commitment to provide a free American flag to any individual, organization, or business that wishes to express gratitude towards individuals like Bruce, his fellow veterans, and America’s service members and their families.

Obtaining a free American flag is as simple as visiting our website and providing mailing information. We then send a new American flag, proudly made in America by veteran-owned businesses. To date, Northwood University has donated nearly 1,000 flags to individuals and organizations nationwide.

While life in America is far from perfect, we believe our country remains a beautiful work in progress. At Northwood, we embrace the wisdom of President Ronald Reagan, when he said, “All great change in America begins at the dinner table.”

At Northwood University, we are proud to provide that dinner table for our students, faculty, and staff — a place where ideas can be explored, disagreements can arise, and individuals can take a walk down our iconic Mall Walk, simply as two people with differing opinions who refuse to let those differences divide them.

When people embrace this way of looking at life and the many issues before us, they often discover that they have more in common than they initially thought. They also enrich their lives by recognizing true friendship thrives on the ability to disagree, while maintaining respect and dignity for one another.

At Northwood University, we believe that personal differences should be embraced and celebrated, and individuals who hold opposing views should be respected and valued. If we lose sight of this, we all suffer on a personal level, our communities become divided, and our country suffers.

Dr. V. Orval Watts, a legendary professor at Northwood, is considered the godfather of The Northwood Idea — the guiding philosophy of our university. This philosophy values freedom, limited government, personal responsibility, earned success, and the significance of private enterprise. In his book, “Do We Want Free Enterprise,” published in 1944, Dr. Watts reminds us that America became prosperous and strong not only because of its people’s freedom but also because they used their freedom wisely.

Indeed, life has evolved over the past 248 years since the brave Continental Congress ratified the Declaration of Independence. Yet, here at Northwood University, we continue to honor our flag with pride, serving as a constant reminder to our students — and to all of us — to use our freedom wisely.

In an era where respect for the American flag is not a given, Northwood University stands as a shining example of unwavering devotion to the principles and values that make America the beacon of freedom and opportunity that it is today. Let us celebrate this great nation and the ideals that the American flag represents, ensuring that we use our freedom to build a brighter future for all.

Kent MacDonald is the president of Northwood University. This column is an excerpt from his State of the University address from the June 6, 2024, President’s Freedom Celebration at Northwood University in Midland, which was featured July 1, 2024, in the Midland Daily News.

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